Experiment with Social Media

Remember to Experiment. We are all bombarded by thousands of messages, helpful advice, and expert opinion each day on how to be more successful at communicating.  This daily barrage can leave you wandering in a wilderness of confusion – pondering: which path to take, where to effectively spend time and resources and what to try first, do next, or avoid all together.  That leaves no choice but to mess with the variables; experiment, and see if you can get a reaction — figure out what works.

I’d like to share two possible experiments to tweak the dials of social media — to give you some ideas that you might try and incorporate into your efforts.

Tagging: No, it’s not about wielding a can of spray paint with reckless abandon.  Tagging, in the social media world — like everything else there, it seems, is about garnering interest and sharing.  The theory is that linking to a fan page (basically, posting a Facebook comment with the “@” symbol preceding the page name, i.e. @Ford) will share fans and drive traffic.  The technical effect of a successful tag is that the link will deliver content from the page doing the tagging to the page being tagged.  The hope is to reap the rewards of fan awareness by connecting to a large, related or interesting community.

In an attempt to figure out the secret sauce of visitor traffic, our office tried our hand at tagging.  The result of the experiment provides some helpful observations.

We posted the following question to our Facebook page for the Marine Corps: “The typical Marine will consume one energy drink a day. Which energy drink do you prefer; Red Bull, Rip It Energy, AMP Energy or Monster Energy?

We tagged all four associated Facebook fan pages in the post.  Although it’s unclear how the tags may have affected our long-term fan-base size (growth or decline), we received return tags from Rip It Energy and Rip It Military fan pages.  These reciprocal transactions resulted in us being included in their news feeds – result achieved.  The experiment also scored us 418,463 impressions and 1,367 Comments from Marines stating their choice of drink.  (For those that are curious, it looks like Monster Energy may be the Corps’ winner).

The point of the experiment was not to gain Facebook traffic. In this case, the social media experiment was about broadening outreach and influencing others.  We can infer, based on the numbers, that we achieved that goal.  The added positive side effect was a possibility that our tag may have benefitted the drink pages more than us.

Landing tabs: If you decide to visit a party, invited or not, the first place you’ll probably try to join in the fun is through the front door.  Customized landing tabs on Facebook are the equivalent to physical party crashing by guiding would-be fans inside your online community party.  Some of the more prevalent landing pages that are touted by many as great examples to emulate include: Lacoste, Starbucks, and Red Bull.  There are tools available on Facebook and many resources to help you set up a custom landing tab.  The tab can be the default destination for newcomers or a way to establish periodic public campaigns for awareness, notification, collaboration, etc. (How To Build a Facebook Landing Page for Your Business).

The intent is to use landing pages and interactive tools on all your products to cross-promote each.  The experiment in this case is to capture the swath of differing visitor traffic and demographics with the intent to build awareness of your messages and your community.  For example, our digital magazine links to our Flickr photos, our website links to our social media properties, our blog links to our Twitter feed and YouTube videos, and our Facebook landing page links to all of the above.  For each complimentary, connection, there are increases on overall traffic on both resources that are linked.  Combined, the traffic outperforms what each would have been able to individually accomplish.  Capture eyes everywhere you can.

Keep experimenting.  Trial and error are the keys to feeding the social media beast.

Recommended Reading:

HOW TO: Back Up Your Social Media Presence Before the Ball Drops

http://mashable.com/2010/12/28/back-up-social-media/

HOW TO: Get the Most Out of Facebook Insights for Small Business
http://mashable.com/2010/12/27/facebook-insights-small-business/#

19 of the Best Infographics From 2010
http://mashable.com/2010/12/27/best-infographics-2010/#

Top 10 Digital Advertising Innovations of 2010
http://mashable.com/2010/12/23/tech-advertising-innovations/#

HOW TO: Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
http://mashable.com/2010/12/15/optimize-linkedin-profile/#

Be strategic. Be Relevant. It’s not to late – yet

Relevance. There is a mathematical concept sometimes applied to business called the strategic inflection point.  This relates to a professional environment as a point in time where fundamentals change so rapidly that the old way of doing business looses a great deal of its relevance. Good examples: the rapid rise of the PC diminishing the mainframe, Amazon.com capturing brick and mortar bookstore sales, Netflix altering Blockbuster’s — and now cable company’s, business models.   Bottom line, there is a clear point when a decision must be made to change and remain relevant or ignore the signs and fade away.

Many businesses, organizations and even government’s communication missions and capabilities are hovering at a strategic inflection point.

Graphic Adaptation of the strategic inflection point curve

Graphic Adaptation of the strategic inflection point curve

Our point in time

Let’s assume that we all want to be relevant in our jobs.

The opportunity for those of us who consider communicating to be our duty or passion, we are approaching this with eyes-wide-open to the possibilities of new options.  Tackling the opportunity is our collective choice to make.  Businesses and organizations that delay, or adopt a wait-and-see approach, are taking a chance on a path towards becoming irrelevant while others continue to advance their communications methods and mediums.

Tips to remaining relevant through social media:

1)    Maintain your foundation. Tackling new mediums of communication still requires that you have your house in order first.  Having a Facebook page for social interaction or a Twitter site to announce important updates isn’t a complete package without having a place to send your fans and followers for the “rest of the story” and more detail.  A recent analysis points out that the New York Times front page still gets the most traffic for all the NY Times online properties compared to the millions that follow and fan the organization in other channels.  One drives the other.

For most brands today, it is imperative to have a solid web presence with current news, details, background information, photos and more to send traffic to from other mediums.  It builds credibility, reputation, and reliability for those seeking to find out about and know you better.

2)    Mind the Gap. The “dissonance gap”, that is.  As illustrated above, there is a span of time where there may not be a clear reason for those in charge to accept or acknowledge that change is necessary. Many business leaders are in this category when it comes to social media.  The reality though is: we all must change our communication methods and processes to keep pace with societal (social media) norms.  A great point was made in an article on CNET news (There no such thing as social media revolution): “If a dictator is overthrown or a government ousted, it would be notable if Facebook or Twitter weren’t used. If folks aren’t on board yet, they will be – by default.

3)    Communicate WITH, not TO, the audience. The old paradigm of delivering the press release or basic talking points has taken a gut shot. It is undisputed that communicators must still have a set of selling points to express. However, what about the issues that the audience is interested in? If you fail to acknowledge there is an interest in certain aspects of your organization until there is a crisis, a bad news story, enormous customer service issue, or public outcry you risk losing relevance for what your audience, customers or the public considers as a value for them.

4)    Try ‘em if you got ‘em. Use the resources you have, and seek out those you may not even realize yet.  Most of the tools we need to run this exciting social media machine are free, many are easy to use; nearly all are streamlined to help with faster communications.  Fast, cheap and easy: for once, you might actually be able to have all three.

Get on board

Remember to leverage tactics and procedures such as search engine optimization, customer engagement, comments and polls, calls to action (search Facebook causes to see useful examples) – there are myriad methods to get involved.  There is a large audience of fans, followers and friends out there that are just itching to help.

And, with the rapid rise in those taking a personal interest in social media, you may even have untapped in-house resources that simply enjoy this new and exciting communication method.  You could have mobile app developers, Facebook code experts, Flickr power users and Twitter gurus on hand that you haven’t considered, who are willing to help – for free, or at least for some recognition that they are part of an opportunity to take your organization to the next level.

Follow the upswing of your strategic inflection point.

Suggested Reading:

How Videos Go Viral (info-graphic)
http://mashable.com/2011/01/26/viral-videos-infographic/

The History of Social Media (info-graphic)
http://mashable.com/2011/01/24/the-history-of-social-media-infographic/

How to engage and mobilize Fans
http://mashable.com/2011/01/24/engaging-facebook-fans/

Chart Definitions:

Strategic Inflection point: The starting point when dynamic shift gives way to a new ways of remaining relevant.

Recognition: Identify the significance of emerging practices and approaches after they arise but before unequivocal feedback validates the issue.

Dissonance gap: The gap between the strategic inflection point and recognition of the shift. During this period, diverging ideas, practices and approaches cause conflicting opinions.

Intent: When leaders begin to sort out conflicting information generated by dissonance to create a new strategic direction that fully takes advantage of new industry conditions.